Elbow Pain Exercises: Your Guide to Relief and Recovery

min read


The Sports Injury Clinic

Madelyn McDonald

March 22, 2024


Elbow pain can be debilitating and significantly impact daily life. Whether it's a nagging ache during simple tasks or a sharp pain that limits your range of motion, elbow discomfort can interfere with work, hobbies, and overall well-being. Elbow pain exercises can be crucial in your recovery journey if you seek relief from elbow discomfort.

The Sports Injury Clinic (TSIC) understands the frustration associated with elbow pain. Our holistic approach combines expert physiotherapy, exercise physiology, myotherapy, and other specialised modalities to address the root cause of your discomfort. We don't just treat symptoms. We empower you with the tools and knowledge to achieve lasting relief and prevent future elbow issues.

Understanding Elbow Pain

Elbow pain can be a complex issue arising from various sources. To effectively address your discomfort, it's crucial to understand the potential causes and incorporate targeted elbow pain exercises into your treatment plan. Here's a closer look at some of the common conditions that can lead to elbow pain:

  • Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis): This overuse injury often results from repetitive strain on the tendons that attach to the outside of the elbow. Activities like tennis, painting, or even prolonged computer use can trigger this condition, causing pain and tenderness on the outer side of the elbow.
  • Golfer's Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis): The counterpart to tennis elbow, the golfer's elbow affects the tendons on the inner side of your elbow. While often associated with golf, it can also develop from activities like weightlifting, throwing sports, or using hand tools that require repetitive gripping and twisting.
  • Elbow Bursitis: The elbow joint contains small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae, which cushions between tendons and bones. Inflammation of these bursae, known as bursitis, can cause significant pain, swelling, and even redness around the elbow.
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis (wear-and-tear arthritis) and rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune condition) can affect the elbow joint. Arthritis often leads to pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the elbow.
  • Fractures and Dislocations: Traumatic injuries to the elbow, such as falls or sports accidents, can cause fractures (broken bones) or dislocations, leading to severe pain, swelling, and deformity.

It's important to note that these are just a few examples, and other conditions can also cause elbow pain. Consulting a healthcare professional at TSIC is essential for an accurate diagnosis. This will pave the way for a personalised treatment plan that targets the root cause of your discomfort, leading to optimal recovery.

Physiotherapy for Elbow Pain at TSIC

Physiotherapy and elbow pain exercises are vital in managing elbow discomfort, promoting healing, and restoring function. At TSIC, our experienced physiotherapists take a comprehensive approach to address your needs. Here's how physiotherapy can help you find relief and regain strength:

  • Pain Reduction and Inflammation Management: Your physiotherapist will use various techniques to reduce pain and inflammation, including manual therapy, massage, hot or cold therapy, and electrotherapy modalities like ultrasound or TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation).
  • Addressing Muscle Imbalances and Mobility: Through targeted exercises and stretches, physiotherapy helps correct muscle imbalances around the elbow and shoulder, improving flexibility and range of motion. This can significantly reduce joint stress and prevent further injury.
  • Progressive Strengthening: Gradual strengthening exercises are crucial for rebuilding strength in the muscles around the elbow, wrist, and forearm. Your physiotherapist will design a personalised program that gradually increases the load and complexity of the exercises, promoting tissue adaptation and preventing re-injury.
  • Education and Guidance: Understanding the nature of your elbow injury is key to effective management. Your TSIC physiotherapist will provide clear explanations of your condition and guidance on modifying your activities, implementing ergonomic adjustments, and incorporating exercises into your daily routine to prevent future flare-ups.
  • Sport-Specific Expertise: Our team at TSIC boasts extensive knowledge in sports physiotherapy. Whether you're an athlete recovering from a sports-related elbow injury or want to return to your favourite activities, our physiotherapists will guide you through a safe and effective return-to-sport program.

The specific physiotherapy techniques and modalities will depend on your diagnosis, pain levels, and overall health. At TSIC, you can expect a one-on-one approach where your physiotherapist works closely with you to develop the most beneficial treatment plan.

Exercise Physiology and Elbow Pain

Exercise physiologists play a vital role in rehabilitating and preventing elbow injuries through tailored elbow pain exercises. At TSIC, our exercise physiologists work with physiotherapists to provide a holistic approach to your recovery. Here's how exercise physiology can help:

  • Individualised Exercise Programs: An exercise physiologist will thoroughly assess your fitness level, movement patterns, and specific needs related to your elbow pain. They will design a comprehensive exercise program tailored to your condition and goals. This program will go beyond isolated elbow exercises and focus on strengthening the core, shoulder, and upper back for optimal support.
  • Pain Management During Exercise: Your exercise physiologist understands the delicate balance of managing pain while promoting healing. They'll carefully guide you through exercises, ensuring proper form and technique to minimise discomfort and maximise benefits.
  • Progression and Monitoring: Exercise physiologists will closely monitor your progress, adjusting the intensity and complexity of your program as you heal. Their expertise ensures you are appropriately challenged to facilitate recovery without risking setbacks.
  • Functional Fitness for Daily Life: Exercise physiology goes beyond treating elbow pain. It aims to enhance your overall functional fitness, making daily tasks, hobbies, and sports activities easier and less likely to trigger future injuries.
  • Lifestyle Guidance: Exercise physiologists can offer valuable lifestyle advice on topics like nutrition, sleep, and stress management, which can indirectly influence your recovery and overall well-being.

At TSIC, our exercise physiologists work seamlessly with your other treatment team members. This collaboration ensures that your rehabilitation journey is comprehensive, addressing all aspects of pain management, strength building, and injury prevention.

Myotherapy and Remedial Massage for Elbow Pain Relief

Myotherapy and remedial massage, complemented by elbow pain exercises, offer significant benefits for individuals suffering from elbow discomfort. These hands-on therapies reduce discomfort, promote healing, and enhance mobility in the affected area. Here's how myotherapy and remedial massage can help:

  • Muscle Tension Relief:  Repetitive strain and overuse often lead to tightness and trigger points (knots) in the forearm, elbow, and shoulder muscles. Myotherapists and remedial massage therapists use targeted techniques to release these tension areas, reducing pain and improving the range of motion.
  • Improved Circulation: Massage increases blood flow to the injured area, bringing essential nutrients and oxygen to facilitate tissue repair. Improved circulation also helps clear away metabolic waste products, reducing inflammation and promoting a healing environment.
  • Scar Tissue Management: In cases of chronic elbow pain or past injuries, scar tissue can form and contribute to stiffness and limited mobility. Skilled myotherapists and massage therapists use specific techniques to help break down scar tissue restrictions and improve flexibility and function.
  • Stress Reduction: Chronic pain can lead to increased stress and anxiety, which can further exacerbate muscle tension. Massage's relaxing nature helps reduce overall stress levels, creating a more conducive environment for healing.
  • Tailored Approach: At TSIC, our myotherapists and massage therapists understand the complexities of elbow pain. They will thoroughly assess the specific muscles and tissues contributing to your discomfort and tailor the treatment accordingly.
  • Success Stories: TSIC has a proven track record of helping patients find relief from elbow pain through myotherapy and remedial massage. Our therapists will work with you to develop a plan that addresses the root cause of your discomfort and sets you on a path to lasting recovery.

These focused therapies often work with physiotherapy and exercise physiology at TSIC, offering a multi-faceted solution for addressing and overcoming elbow pain.

Pilates for Strengthening and Elbow Pain Prevention

Pilates and specific elbow pain exercises are fantastic ways to build strength, improve stability, and reduce the risk of future elbow injuries. While not a direct treatment for existing elbow pain, Pilates can be vital to your rehabilitation and long-term wellness plan. Here's how Pilates can benefit those with elbow concerns:

  • Core Strengthening: A strong core is the foundation for healthy movement patterns in the entire body. Pilates exercises specifically target the deep abdominal, back, and pelvic floor muscles, improving overall posture and reducing strain on joints, including the elbows.
  • Whole-body Stability: Pilates emphasises controlled movements, focusing on proper alignment and muscle engagement throughout your body. This increased stability and control can take unnecessary stress off your elbows during everyday activities and sports.
  • Improved Flexibility and Range of Motion: Pilates incorporates a variety of stretches and movements designed to improve flexibility in the spine, shoulders, and upper body. Enhanced flexibility can help release tension in the muscles and tendons around the elbow, reducing pain and improving joint health.
  • Mind-Body Connection: Pilates encourages focused breathing and mindful movement. These can help manage pain levels and reduce stress, both of which can exacerbate elbow discomfort.
  • Tailored Pilates Classes at TSIC: Our Pilates instructors are trained to modify exercises and routines based on individual needs and conditions. If you have elbow pain, our instructors can create a program that avoids aggravating the injury while still providing strengthening and mobility benefits.

Pilates integrates seamlessly with other treatment modalities offered at TSIC. As your elbow pain improves, Pilates can help you regain full function, reduce re-injury risk, and enhance your overall movement performance in daily life and athletic pursuits.

Elbow Pain Exercises: A Guide

Specific exercises are essential for rehabilitating elbow injuries and reducing pain. It's important to consult your TSIC physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to ensure you perform the exercises correctly and appropriately for your specific condition. Here's a general guide, but remember that individualised programs are crucial for optimal recovery:

Tennis Elbow Exercises

  • Wrist Extensor Stretch: Hold your arm before you, palm facing down. Bend your wrist down and use your other hand to gently increase the stretch. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.
  • Wrist Flexor Stretch: Extend your arm in front, palm facing up. Bend your wrist upwards and use your other hand to gently increase the stretch. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.
  • Wrist Extensions with Resistance: Hold a lightweight or a resistance band in your hand, with your palm facing down. Slowly extend your wrist backward against the resistance. Perform 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets.

Golfer's Elbow Exercises

  • Wrist Flexor Stretch: (Same as above)
  • Wrist Extensor Stretch: (Same as above, but start with your palm facing up)
  • Wrist Flexions with Resistance: Hold a lightweight or a resistance band in your hand, with your palm facing up. Slowly bend your wrist forward against the resistance. Perform 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets.

Additional Exercises

  • Forearm Pronation and Supination: Hold a lightweight hammer in your hand. Rotate your forearm so your palm faces up (supination) and then down (pronation). Perform 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets.
  • Towel Twists: Grip a towel with both hands and twist it back and forth like you're wringing it out. Perform for 2-3 minutes.

Important Considerations:

  • Pain Management: Start with gentle exercises and gradually increase the intensity as tolerated. If you experience sharp pain, stop and consult your healthcare provider.
  • Proper Form: Focus on the correct form to avoid further injury. Ask your TSIC team for demonstrations and guidance.
  • Consistency: Regular exercise is key for optimal recovery.

Disclaimer: This guide provides general examples. Seek personalised advice from your TSIC physiotherapist or exercise physiologist for a program specifically designed for your condition and needs.

Lifestyle Adjustments and Elbow Pain Management

Be mindful of how you use your elbows during routine tasks, and consider integrating elbow pain exercises into your daily routine. Use tools with ergonomic grips or larger handles to reduce strain. Delegate or adapt chores if they cause significant pain.

A proper workstation setup is crucial. Your seat, keyboard, and mouse positioning should allow for relaxed shoulders and wrists in a neutral position. Consider an ergonomic assessment at TSIC for tailored recommendations.

Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Opt for lean protein sources to support muscle health. Limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive saturated fats.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Adequate hydration maintains tissue fluid balance, supports muscle function, and aids recovery.

When to Seek Professional Help

If elbow pain doesn't improve with rest, home remedies, and targeted elbow pain exercises after a few days, consult a professional at TSIC.

Seek immediate care for severe pain, swelling, numbness, inability to move the joint, or if the injury occurred with a popping or snapping sound.

Professional guidance can get you back on track if you don't notice improvement with self-management and exercises.

Our specialists will thoroughly examine your elbow, ask about your pain history, and evaluate your movement patterns. They might use diagnostic tools like X-rays or ultrasound to pinpoint the exact cause of your discomfort.

TSIC Difference: Why Choose Us?

Our multidisciplinary team of physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, myotherapists, and other specialists will collaborate seamlessly to address all facets of your elbow pain – from pain relief to strength restoration and injury prevention.

We design a plan for you, considering your diagnosis, lifestyle, and goals. Your treatment evolves as you progress, ensuring the best possible outcome.

TSIC has a track record of helping countless patients overcome elbow pain and regain their active lives. We prioritise your comfort and understanding. You'll be actively involved in your recovery journey every step of the way.

Don't let elbow pain control your life. Take the first step towards lasting relief. Call us or Book a consultation with TSIC today to start your journey towards pain-free movement.

Elbow pain can be frustrating and debilitating, but it doesn't have to be a permanent part of your life. By seeking professional help from the experts at TSIC, you gain access to a comprehensive range of treatments and therapies designed to address the root cause of your discomfort.

We're here to empower you with the knowledge and tools you need for lasting pain relief and injury prevention. Contact TSIC today and take control of your elbow health!


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